An Enhanced QFD Approach for Improving Water Tanks Sustainability at a Local Water Distributor
Industrial Engineering & Management
Purpose: This paper utilizes a modified version of Quality Function Deployment (QFD) and the House of Quality (HOQ) in enhancing the technical requirements of constructing water tanks at a local water distribution company in Abu Dhabi and in developing a viable/sustainable solution to water leakage problem. Reported tanks problems negatively affect the company in terms of increased costs of maintenance and water losses and reduced customer satisfaction which hinders water sustainability and
... tainability and consumes company resources. Design/methodology/approach: A customer-driven approach is followed to identify internal and external customer needs, construct the QFD-HoQ, and develop feasible technical solutions to existing water tanks problems. To this end, surveys were used to collect data from internal and external customers. The data is analyzed to identify the specific needs of customers and use them as an input to construct the HoQ along with their ranking of relative importance. However, the standard QFD approach is adapted to fit the nature of the problem and the needs of the study. A complete HoQ is developed to translate customer needs into specific set of technical requirements tank standards. The results obtained from the complete HoQ are then analyzed to set a technical solution and an action plan. Findings and originality/value: Applying the proposed method at the local water distribution company in Abu Dhabi has resulted in enhancing the standards of constructing the currently used tanks (RCC and Steel types) by setting targets/changes to 16 technical requirements. These technical requirements meet 6 identified categories of customer needs in terms of tanks durability, leakage, quality, assembly, maintenance, and cost. The results analysis has also led to proposing a solution alternative for replacing the old RCC and Steel tanks by GRP tanks wherever possible. Such results benefit both the customer (in terms of better service and higher satisfaction) and the company (in terms of reduced cost and more effective operations) and improve the sustainability of water resources on the long run. Research limitations/implications: The project was limited by the data collection and access to specific technical information of water tanks. This is mostly related to tanks location, exact amount of water leakage, and tanks design and technical specifications. A team of subject matter experts is, therefore, consulted when developing the technical solutions in response to certain customer needs. The Also, the study was limited by difficulties in gaining the access to the remote areas of external customers. Surveys were emailed to these locations instead of having face-to-face interviews. Practical implications: The proposed approach showed how to practically integrate the generic needs/expectations of external customers with the technical requirements of internal customers in departments such as operations, maintenance, and asset management and how to develop an action plan that meets the needs of both sides. This method can be utilized by other 46 water distribution companies to improve the sustainability of their water tanks, to minimize any unnecessary spending, and to solve problems reported by customers. Utilizing QFD as an important tool of Total Quality Management (TQM) can also pave the way in the future to exploit more TQM practices in water distribution companies towards achieving organizational excellence. Social implications: Reducing water waste and improving the sustainability of water tanks and networks is getting more attention in many societies. This is particularly important in the Gulf States where water resources are scares and the cost of water desalination is high and consumes significant energy. Originality/value: The approach emphasizes the importance of utilizing QFD in selecting technical solution alternatives based on customer voice. It addresses the costs of poor quality or hidden costs which are typically ignored in standard QFD applications. The approach also integrates several quality tools and graphical techniques into the standard QFD approach.